BHS 2 steel goes up

Steel beams stand like a giant goal post at the construction site of Bozeman’s second high school at Cottonwood Road and Oak Street.

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Bozeman’s second high school hit another milestone Wednesday when the School Board approved $37 million worth of bids for the project’s interior, bringing the final cost of construction to $78.7 million.

School trustees voted 8-0 at a special meeting to approve three dozen bids, for everything from carpentry and cabinets to paint and plumbing, gym floors and bleachers, an elevator and fire sprinklers, air-handling and electrical systems.

“We’re about a half-million below the pre-bond estimate,” said Steve Johnson, deputy superintendent. Six months ago it was estimated to be $4 million over budget.

The remainder of the $93 million total budget for the building, roughly $17 million, will cover architectural and engineering fees, furnishings equipment, from desks and chairs to library and auto shop equipment to computers.

Roger Davis of general contractor Langlas and Associates said the building market is challenging right now, especially with looming tariffs on steel and aluminum. He said it had been a great decision to nail down pre-approved contracts for steel before tariff talk started, so the school project wasn’t affected.

Davis added he was “very happy” because, after delaying the bid opening date by a week, a good number of subcontractors had submitted competitive bids from Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Smaller contractors sometimes worked together with competitors to bid on the dauntingly large project.

Thanks to being within budget, Davis said, they were able to add back several desired features that had been listed as alternates, including windows that can open. Teachers really wanted that, Johnson said.

Also added back were a restroom at the football and track field, better quality flooring, and theater lighting for the new auditorium. The project still has $1 million in its contingency fund.

The city of Bozeman will also reimburse $2.4 million to the school district for work that Langlas and Associates is doing to improve Oak Street, Cottonwood Road and a city roundabout at the northwest corner of the school grounds.

The school’s foundations are about 95 percent done, Davis said, and the first structural steel has been erected.

School Superintendent Rob Watson said Wednesday’s approval of bids was “an important step, so we can stay on our timeline.” The school is scheduled to be finished by June 1, 2020, and to open for students that fall.

Watson said seeing the first steel go up had been “a shocker for me – it brings everything into reality. That’s exciting.”

At the site, steel beams stand like a giant goalpost, with an American flag flying from the top. That will become the entry to the competition gym, said Josh Henigman, project supervisor. They lost a couple days because of the rainy weather, but overall, he said, “We’re right on pace.”

“We’re on schedule,” said company president Steve Langlas, “and a bit under budget. We’ve made a lot of progress on site work and foundation work in the last six weeks.”

Jeff Keller, owner of the Paint Factory, told the School Board that as a paint supplier, he’d like to have bid on the school project. However, painting was part of a larger bid package that included drywall and wall coverings. Subcontractor Champion submitted the winning bid of $3.6 million.

Keller argued the school district could save a lot of taxpayer money if the subcontractors’ labor and materials were bid separately, allowing more competition on paint supplies, instead of having subcontractors choose paint suppliers based on a personal relationship or a rebate from the paint company.

Trustees thanked him for bringing the idea to their attention.

After the meeting, Johnson said they received three bids on the drywall and paint package. “We feel the system does provide taxpayers savings and competition,” he said.

Watson said it’s good to review how the school district does things, but added, “It’s difficult for me to determine where you draw the line. Should we bid out nails and screws? You can go down the rabbit hole. I believe our process still gets us the best price.”

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Gail Schontzler can be reached at 406-582-2633 or gails@dailychronicle.com.

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